Billions are invested in sales enablement programs, worldwide. We have tools, training, processes, programs, systems. To be honest, I have a “love/hate” relationship with sales enablement (not the people in sales enablement.)

I think it’s a critical function to support and enable sales people. But too often, we see massive failures. It may be failures on the part of sales managers and sales people, failing to implement the programs sales enablement people develop. It may be the failure of sales enablers, implementing the wrong things in the wrong way. It’s probably more likely a combination of failures on both the part of sales enablement, sales leadership, and sales people.

But my issue is less with what sales enablement does/doesn’t do. The great people in sales enablement recognize many of these “disconnects,” and are trying to improve.

My issue is that sales enablement looks at their mission in too narrow a fashion. It focuses on sellers.

What if sales enablement became buyer enablement?

What if, rather than focusing just on enabling sellers, sales enablement focused on buyers? What if sales enablement focused on enabling buyers to buy more effectively, more confidently.

This wouldn’t preclude what sales enablement does in improving sales effectiveness and efficiency. But it would broaden their view and impact.

By focusing on sales people, sales enablement is focusing on the smallest part of buyer attention.

Think of this (Courtesy of Gartner):

Buying Function % of Time Spent
Total time in meeting with potential suppliers 17%
Time spent independently on online research 27%
Time spent in meeting with the buyer group 22%
Time spent independently on offline research 18%
Other 16%

Source, Gartner

Buyers spend only 17% of their time with all vendors. We are only getting a small part of their attention! So we are focusing everything we do in sales enablement on influencing/helping on the smallest part of the customer buying journey.

But if we expand our view of sales enablement to buyer enablement, we might shift our perspectives. We’d look at how our customers spend their time in their buying journey. We’d see how we might be able to help them outside of just the time they spend with sales people. For example, how could we help with their research? What can we do to help them improve the impact of their internal meetings?

The sales person might be the channel for much of that, perhaps giving the buyers the ability to manage the other 83% of their buying time more effectively. But are we enabling those conversations? We might work with marketing and other parts of the organization to more effectively reach customers directly in their on and off line research.

As organizations, we want to drive growth through success in the market. But if we focus just on enabling sales people, we are missing a huge amount of opportunity to help our customers.

Perhaps, the future of sales enablement should be buyer enablement!